This Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce is an easy, delicious recipe full of pumpkin flavor. When it's pumpkin season and you're looking for the perfect way to use up some canned pumpkin in the pantry, you'll love this dish full of savory flavor.
Disclosure: This post was originally published on September 11, 2022, but was republished with new photos and an improved recipe on September 11, 2023.
This recipe was adapted from our keto pumpkin alfredo with ground turkey! It's ultra-comforting and ready in just minutes and a great alternative for those on a low-carb diet.
❤️Why we love this recipe
- A great way to incorporate pumpkin into your diet. Pumpkin is so widely used in baked goods, and we understand why, but folks often overlook its savory uses! Pumpkin has quite a mild flavor, transforming with whatever you're cooking it with.
- Made with simple ingredients. This recipe is truly made with pantry staples. You can find anything you don't have on hand at the grocery store.
- Delicious flavor - This recipe is really yummy, with a creamy ricotta pumpkin sauce, packed with warm, lightly spicy, herbaceous, and savory spices. What's not to love? This delicious sauce is versatile.
- Customizable to suit different diet types. This recipe can easily be made vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or low-carb with just a few simple swaps.
Here are the ingredients we used for this recipe. You can find more information for substitutions below.
- Extra-virgin olive oil & unsalted butter
- Garlic cloves
- Yellow onion
- Kosher salt & black pepper
- Seasonings - We use a mixture of dried sage, thyme, red pepper flakes (optional, for a little kick), and nutmeg. The combo of the warm, spicy, herbaceous, and savory flavors is perfect and makes this dish something special.
- Tomato paste
- Pure pumpkin puree. Not pumpkin pie filling that has added extra sugar and spices. The only ingredient should be pumpkin.
- Half and half.
- Chicken broth.
- Ricotta cheese. Adds substance and a little protein, as well as thickens the sauce.
- Pasta of choice. You can use any type of pasta you prefer. We used thick pappardelle noodles. Anything you like would work.
- Reserved pasta water. Make sure to reserve some of the salty, starchy water that the pasta cooks in before draining it. This helps the sauce come together and helps the sauce cling to the noodles.
- Garnishes. Fresh sage that has been fried in a little bit of olive oil (optional) and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Visit the recipe card for the full quantities and nutritional information.
Here are a few suggestions on additional flavors to try, or simple variations to this recipe.
- Spice intensity. Love spice? Add extra red pepper flakes, or a little cayenne pepper. You can also feel free to leave it out. You can also omit the nutmeg if you prefer.
- Swap the herbs or increase the amount. You can always add more herbs! Rosemary and parsley would be perfect with this sauce.
- Creamier version. If you're looking for something extra creamy, use heavy cream instead of half and half, extra ricotta, and extra butter.
- Lighter version. For a lighter version of this recipe, use milk instead of cream.
- Use dried herbs. If you don't have any fresh sage, just use dried sage, but reduce the amount by ⅔ as dried herbs are more potent in flavor.
- No garlic. Fresh garlic is always going to be best and we highly recommend using it whenever possible. You can use garlic powder instead. One garlic clove is equivalent to ¼ of a teaspoon of garlic powder, so keep this in mind.
- Swap the broth. You can use veggie broth or even a dry, non-oaky white wine in place of the chicken broth.
- No tomato paste. If you don't have tomato paste, you can omit it, or use a little bit of tomato sauce. The tomato paste adds a lovely subtle richness and sweetness to the sauce, and we do recommend it!
- Dairy free. Use a dairy free or vegan butter, and dairy free ricotta cheese. You will also need to swap the half and half for full fat coconut milk or your favorite dairy free cream alternative.
- Vegan. Follow the swaps for dairy free, swap the chicken broth for veggie broth, and just make sure you're using a vegan friendly (egg free) pasta.
- Gluten free. Use your favorite gluten-free pasta for this recipe, as the rest of the ingredients are naturally gluten free!
- Low carb or keto. Just use your favorite carb pasta. We adore this low carb fettuccine! For keto, try this protein-packed, plant-based pasta by Kaizen.
- Low carb & gluten free. If you're looking for a low carb AND gluten free option, use shirataki noodles, palmini noodles, or zucchini noodles.
- Add protein. Make it a whole meal by adding protein like shrimp, chicken, or turkey. You can add tofu for a vegan option.
- Add veggies. The sky is the limit when it comes to adding veggies! Some of our top veggie choices would be spinach, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, or butternut squash.
*Please note, if subbing for pasta water, or using pasta alternatives, your sauce may be lacking starch. Starch helps the sauce come together when we add the pasta water. So you may need to thicken the sauce with extra cheese, ricotta, or pumpkin puree. You can also try adding less liquid to the sauce.
- Mince garlic.
- Dice onion.
- Chop sage into small pieces.
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil for the pasta.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
Add butter and olive oil to melt. Add in the onion with a pinch of salt, and cook until softened and translucent, about 4-5 minutes. After the onion is mostly translucent, add in the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, sage, red pepper flakes, and nutmeg. (Image 1)
Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent anything from burning until the tomato paste deepens in color and the garlic is nice and fragrant. (Image 2)
✨Pro tip: Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. We like to start the water about 20-30 minutes or so before the sauce is done so that it can all come together at once. Once boiling, add salt and cook pasta for a few minutes under the package directions.
Pour in the chicken broth to deglaze the pan, followed by the pumpkin puree. (Image 3) Stir to combine and add a good pinch of salt.
Next, stir in the half and half, followed by the ricotta cheese. (Image 4)
Continue stirring until the sauce comes together and is nice and warm.
If desired, you can use an immersion blender or regular blender to make the sauce nice and silky smooth. We highly recommend doing this, it makes the sauce so velvety smooth like the photo below! (Image 5)
Add the cooked pasta directly into the sauce with a few ladles of pasta water, tossing gently to coat the noodles. Add more pasta water as needed to thin the sauce and to help the sauce cling to the noodles. (Image 6)
Serve right away, and top the pasta with freshly grated parmesan cheese, and fried sage. Enjoy!
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✨Tips & tricks
- Cook pasta al dente. Make sure to not overcook your pasta! No one likes soggy pasta. Cook the pasta al dente for 1-2 minutes under the package directions. It will finish cooking in the sauce!
- Don't forget to heavily salt the pasta water! This will ensure the pasta water isn't flavorless. The salted water makes the pasta more flavorful as well.
- Don't burn the garlic. This recipe is ready very quickly, so don't walk away from the skillet at all. You will need to stir the garlic constantly to ensure it doesn't burn. If it burns, you need to start over with the dish.
- Blend the sauce for a smooth texture. This step is optional, but makes a huge difference in texture, and turns the sauce luscious and velvety smooth.
💭Frequently asked questions
This pasta is most definitely enjoyed fresh, while it's nice and hot. However, it can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
If stored separately, you can freeze the pumpkin pasta sauce for up to 6 months. We don't recommend freezing the sauce with the noodles.
If possible, save some pasta water in a separate container in the fridge to help loosen up stiff noodles on the stovetop.
To reheat on the stovetop, we'd recommend adding a little bit of water, and more olive oil or butter with the pasta to your skillet. Move around constantly to prevent any sticking or burning, and remove from the skillet as soon as the noodles are warmed through. If you have extra pasta water, use that instead!
In the microwave, add a few tablespoons of water to the noodles, and reheat in 15-second intervals, stirring in between until the noodles are warmed through.
Sure! Just note that you will likely need to add less liquid, as homemade pumpkin puree usually has more liquid in it than store-bought varieties.
The water reserved from the pasta has some starches in it, which helps us to create a silky smooth sauce to coat the noodles.
Yes and no! If you don't salt the water, your pasta noodles will become bland and flavorless. Use at least 1.5 tablespoons of kosher salt per every pound of pasta. We know it seems like a lot, but since the pasta is only in the water for a few minutes, it needs to make an impact.
With that being said, if you are using a pasta alternative (like shiraki or zucchini noodles) that don't need to be boiled in salted water, just make sure to add a little extra salt to the sauce to taste.
🍂More Fall Recipes To Try
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Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided (to taste, and can vary depending on if you used pasta water or not)
- 10 cloves garlic, minced (one whole head, or less if you don't like garlic!)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional and to taste)
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional and to taste)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1.5 cups chicken broth
- 15 ounces pure pumpkin puree (1 can)
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- 8 ounces half and half
- 1 pound pasta of choice (we used papparadelle pasta
- 1.5 - 2.5 cups reserved salted pasta water (add as needed to loosen the sauce)
- Parmesan cheese and fried sage leaves to garnish (optional)
- Add 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil to a hot skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine as the butter melts. Add in the onion with a pinch of salt, and cook until softened and translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. We like to start the water about 20-30 minutes or so before the sauce is done so that it can all come together at once. Once boiling, add salt and cook pasta for a few minutes under the package directions.
- After the onion is mostly translucent, add in 3 tablespoons of tomato paste, the minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, 1 teaspoon of dried sage, ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg to taste. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring constnatly to prevent anything from burning until the tomato paste deepens in color and the garlic is nice and fragrant.
- Pour in 1.5 cups of chicken broth to deglaze the pan, followed by the can of pumpkin puree. Stir to combine and add a good pinch of salt.
- Next, stir in the half and half, followed by the ricotta cheese. Continue stirring until the sauce comes together and is nice and warm. If desired, you can use an immersion blender or regular blender to make the sauce nice and silky smooth. We highly recommend doing this, it makes the sauce so velvety smooth.
- Add the cooked pasta directly into the sauce with a few ladles of pasta water, tossing gently to coat the noodles. Add more pasta water as needed to thin the sauce and to help the sauce cling to the noodles.
- Serve right away, and top the pasta with freshly grated parmesan cheese, and fried sage. Enjoy!
- This pasta is most definitely enjoyed fresh, while it's nice and hot. However, it can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. If stored separately, you can freeze the pumpkin pasta sauce for up to 6 months. We don't recommend freezing the sauce with the noodles. If possible, save some pasta water in a separate container in the fridge to help loosen up stiff noodles on the stovetop.
- Nutrition facts are for the sauce only. Garnishes and pasta are not included. All garnishes are optional and to taste.
- Always heavily salt the pasta water to make sure the noodles absorb flavor. You will need at least 1.5 tablespoons of kosher salt per pound of pasta.
- Cook the pasta al dente.
- Add pasta water to reach your desired texture. If more liquid is desired, add in chicken or vegetable broth.
- Use fresh ingredients whenever possible for this recipe.